What does that last post about the Forrester writing style have to do with product management? Quite a lot, actually.

One of the toughest challenges I’ve seen for product managers is writing for your audiences. Let’s expand on that last sentence:

  • You are not writing for yourself. Many requirements documents make a case that convinces the product manager writing it. But, of course, you’re already convinced, so convincing yourself further is pointless.
  • You are writing to help someone else make a decision or perform a task. Therefore, you need to provide the right type and amount of information, in the right structure and medium, for that audience. The CEO approving the contents of a release needs different information than the developer implementing a feature.
  • You have more than one audience. You’ll be able to recycle information, but realistically, you’ll be tailoring and adding to that information for each audience.

Therefore, nearly every successful product manager I’ve known has taken the initiative, early in their job at a particular company, to find out what type of information needs to be in a PM deliverable for a specific group. Sometimes, this discussion turns into a negotiation over what information is really important, or who really provides it. Do personas help make feature decisions? Does the PM storyboard a feature, or someone on the development team?

Clearly, this conversation is about more than just style–which is yet another reason to take the initiative. Inventing these deliverables as you go will only befuddle, frustrate, and antagonize the people depending on them. As Oscar Wilde said, "In matters of utmost importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing."